Self-awareness: Your preferred feedback
Know what kind of feedback on your work makes you the most productive and what kind of feedback makes you defensive. Providing feedback on design work is a delicate art. Too much, and the designer feels a loss of control. Not enough, and the designer may not get a strong sense of direction. But feedback efficacy also depends on the packaging (delivery channel, tone) and the scope. You may get...
Pattern: Make assumptions
Allow yourself to move forward in the design process by making assumptions about missing inputs. Even if you don’t have every requirement captured, every interview complete, or every piece of content inventoried, you can still make progress in solving the design problem. Make some assumptions about the missing inputs, document your assumptions, and prepare a design around them. Discussing...
Situation: Reluctant participation in...
Some members of the team may not actively participate in creative games and brainstorming activities. Collaborative sessions to generate lots of ideas or validate an approach have become a staple of the design process. Since designing products (web sites or otherwise) touches so many people in the organization, these sessions typically involve lots of different kinds of people. Some of them may...
Situation: "Have you seen this site?"
Someone contributes comparative examples with little or no practical relevance to the design problem. Bringing content-heavy sites to a brainstorming meeting about a highly transactional application, for example, distracts the team from the core problem. The effect: Every design process is well-served by examples and inspiration from outside the immediate problem. While incorporating examples...
Situation: "I did some mock-ups"
A non-designer on the project team prepares screen designs, concepts, or other artifacts attempting to establish a creative direction. The motivation for creating these designs varies. It sometimes indicates a dissatisfaction with the approach of the design team. Sometimes other members of the team are eager to share and promote their ideas. The effect: When a non-designer shows up with design...
Situation: Disintermediation from key stakeholders
Designers find themselves separated from the true client or customer through layers of bureaucracy. The effect: The “telephone effect” hampers the designer’s ability to communicate ideas, solicit input, and understand feedback. Members of the team (especially those part of the bureaucratic layers separating the designer from the client) may perceive performance issues. The...
Situation: Misinterpretation of tone
The recipient of your message reads hostility or disrespect into your communications. Their responses are positioned relative to the perceived tone, not to the actual content of your message. The effect: Communication on a project comes to a halt because the recipient can’t get past the perceived tone of the message. The challenge: Some people are wired to read the worst into even the...
Situation: Responses not timely
You’re not receiving responses to your inquiries about feedback, next steps, required inputs or other dependencies for forward progress. The effect: This could lead to operational issues if you fail to make progress because you aren’t getting the responses you need. It could impact your performance. The challenge: You could proceed without the requested responses, but perform...
Idea: Choose your own adventure
In workshops where people might find role-playing awkward, this approach can encourage discussion of conflict management techniques. You’re dealt 10 cards, 5 with different patterns and 5 with different situations. Put the situations face-down in front of you. Keep the patterns visible to you. Turn over the first situation card, and choose the best pattern to deal with the situation....
Anti-Pattern: Playing the victim
The designer blames everyone but himself for the problems occurring on a project.
Pattern: What's your first step?
Ask colleagues what their immediate activity will be upon receiving a new assignment. Use when: Employing a new methodology or technique, and you’re not sure how your team will proceed. Team members can’t offer specific answers about how they’ll contribute to the overall project or how they’ll address the project’s objectives.
Anti-Pattern: Insult colleagues' intelligence
By speaking in lofty terms or abstractions, without getting specific to the project or work at hand, you make your colleagues feel dumb. This happens when: You feel defensive about your work. You rely on idealistic methodologies and avoid getting concrete.
Anti-Pattern: Black box
You go off to your desk and work on the solution to a problem, unveiling your work on the deadline itself. You don’t invite critique of the work in progress, ask clarifying questions throughout your process, and get defensive about your methodology.
Situation: Design ignorance
Designers sometimes find themselves defending the practice of design itself. They’re forced to explain fundamental design principles, the value of a designer’s contribution, or the techniques they’re using. The effect: Designers will face conflict every step of the way, spending time defending not just their design decisions, but their approach and mere presence, too. The...
Situation: No plan
The project lacks a plan that defines desired outcomes, activities, schedule, and assignments. Project planning may be something that designers take for granted. Rooted in an organization’s corporate culture, project plans can vary from job to job. They may be ignored altogether. The effect: When people don’t know what they’re doing day-to-day or even week-to-week they become...
Self-Awareness: Project load
Know how much work you can handle in the space of a normal 40-hour week. No one likes working with a martyr. You shouldn’t be killing yourself to work on more projects you can handle. Different people have different styles and need the right mix of projects to perform effectively. You can assess your load by looking at the roles you play (manager vs. contributor vs. reviewer) and the size...
Idea: role-playing videos
Workshop participants may be reluctant to join in role-playing activities. Instead, record EightShapers role-playing different situations to use as discussion points in a long workshop.
Pattern: Come back later
Don’t respond immediately to a hostile request or insulting communication. Stifle the urge to respond by stepping away from your desk and doing something distracting. Use when: Receiving a message that seems to include counter-productive attacks.
Pattern: Ask for help
Recognize when you’re in over your head and be prepared to ask for help. Come with recommendations for what would help you the most. Use when: You realize you’re not being effective because you’re constantly encountering obstacles. You anticipate running into problems and know that you won’t be able to handle the tidal wave when it comes.
As a workshop
Overview: Design thrives on conflict Design work is fraught with conflict. Some is good, moving the project forward, and some is bad, stalling progress. Either way, most designers find themselves ill-equipped to deal with the variety of conflicts that arise. They lack the skills necessary to ensure their conflicts aren’t caustic and to make them productive. Situations, Patterns, and...